Damani Phillips | No More Apologies Review
By Darnell Jackson
Dr. Damani Phillips is a saxophonist and composer that is a native of Pontiac, MI, where he began playing at the age of 10. He has earned Bachelor’s and Master of Music degrees from DePaul University and The University of Kentucky in classical saxophone, and a second Master of Music degree in Jazz Studies from Wayne State University. In 2009, Phillips completed the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Jazz Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder, becoming one of the first African-Americans to earn this degree. Phillips is currently serving as Associate Professor of Jazz/Af-Am Studies at The University of Iowa. In addition, he directs jazz combos and teaches courses in African-American music, jazz history, and improvisation. As a recording artist, Phillips has released 5 jazz albums as a leader and appeared on over 10 albums as a sideman in genres ranging from pop to contemporary R&B. His recorded output is wide-ranging in its stylistic explorations. Phillips’s latest project is called No More Apologies. Phillips describes the album as follows, “Best described as an album of Black music rather than a “jazz” album in the traditional sense, No More Apologies is the result of a risky, yet rewarding, musical experiment.” The instrumentation is saxophone, piano, bass, and drums paired with a string octet.
“So in Love (A Nod to Cannon)” mixes the rich sounds of strings with the finesse of straight-ahead jazz. Phillips’s tone and phrasing are deeply influenced by 50s jazz, which adds to the appeal of the opening selection. Phillips’s solo is rooted in hard bop while keeping the melodic colors of modern innovations. His melodic and rhythmic concepts could be described as a blend of the soulfulness of Cannonball Adderley with the harmonic savvy of Kenny Garrett.
His aspirations are to strike a soulful balance between jazz tradition and contemporary innovation and to make music that speaks to ALL people on a wavelength that they can appreciate—regardless of their walk of life can be heard on “Sunset’s Last Embrace.” The contemporary jazz-funk setting is augmented by rich string sonorities and counterpoint. The string background writing under Phillips’s solo is very creative and adds a lush, sophisticated sound to the song. Phillips again shows his elegant style as he solos with confidence and ease, but never fails to hold the listener’s attention.
No More Apologies is a project that captures so many angles of great music and styles. Phillips does not let limitations form his musical opinions, and the result is a new project that breaks through as a musical statement of depth and passion. Phillips will capture your attention with his infectious and unwavering musicality.
No More Apologies
Release Date: November 15, 2021
Label: Openmind Records